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Falcons look for boost from defensive line


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Falcons look for boost from defensive line

By KEN SUGIURA

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

John Abraham set a new franchise record and career-high for sacks in a season with 16-1/2 last year.

Flowery Branch — Mike Smith can say this much with certainty about his defensive line.

John Abraham, his Pro Bowl-caliber defensive end, will start. The rest is a little less clear.

“In terms of the other guys, it is going to be a matter of how the competition plays out,” the Falcons coach said. “It could change from week to week and from day to day.”

As was the case last season, the Falcons plan to use plenty of legs on the defensive line. The team kept nine defensive linemen on the 53-man roster and might use eight in a game.

“Whether a guy is a starter or whether a guy is a backup, the way we do things with our defensive line, all of those guys will play,” Smith said. “Just like John Abraham is a starter, but John only plays about 40 snaps a game. We are going to make sure that we keep our guys as fresh as possible up front.”

It helped the Falcons stay competitive on defense last season. They were 28th in yards per rush, 17st in yards per pass attempt and 24th in overall yards per play. However, they were 11th in scoring and 13th in third-down conversion rate. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said the defense wants to finish in the top 10 of yards allowed.

Keeping a rotation that spreads out snaps and keeps players rested will help, he said.

“I think it’s going to work out real good. We’ve got a lot of speed on defense,” defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said. “Everybody on the rotation is a speedy guy that can get in there and do their job and keep everybody fresh throughout the game. That’s the object of it, to have us fresh for the fourth quarter.”

There are risks in trading the size of 345-pound defensive tackle Grady Jackson, who left as a free agent, for the speed of first-round pick Peria Jerry, who weighs 290.

“They did a lot of line stunts, which can be good if it works, but you can also get gashed,” said NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, who called three of the Falcons’ exhibition games for WXIA. “You almost have to be a perfect fit every play with linebackers and safeties. They got gashed a little bit in the preseason, and they had a hard time containing quarterbacks.”

Defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder have some players who need their to coaching. Among the tackles taking Jackson’s place are the rookie Jerry, Trey Lewis, who played nine games as a rookie in 2007 but missed all of last season with an injury, and Thomas Johnson, whose most recent NFL action was in 2006.

Jerry, for instance, has realized much detail is involved in the pro game.

It is “just a lot different than college, where you just go out and beat a guy,” Jerry said. “You really have to study your opponent.”

Two of the ends are rookie Lawrence Sidbury and second-year man Kroy Biermann.

Jackson, who signed with the Lions, was a “very productive guy in the middle that can take on two (linemen) and split two and still make the play in the backfield,” Babineaux said. “I miss the big fella, but we’ve got a lot of young guys that love to compete and get after guys.”

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I love how Sid, Jerry, and the Beerman showed improvement in every PS game. Jerry was manhandled and looked pretty bad in the first two games. He started to look better in the 3rd game and he stayed on his feet more. In the fourth one, he looked like a first rounder with a sack, a TFL, and 4-5 tackled I believe. Sid the Kid looked raw throughout the PS, but he showed some natural talent and natural pass rushing skills, and I think he will be good one day. The Beerman looks REALLY improved from last year, and his 20 lb. weight gain is not affecting speed at all IMO. He chases down runners, looks stronger at the point of attack, and he showed some good pass rushing skills.

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I love how Sid, Jerry, and the Beerman showed improvement in every PS game. Jerry was manhandled and looked pretty bad in the first two games. He started to look better in the 3rd game and he stayed on his feet more. In the fourth one, he looked like a first rounder with a sack, a TFL, and 4-5 tackled I believe. Sid the Kid looked raw throughout the PS, but he showed some natural talent and natural pass rushing skills, and I think he will be good one day. The Beerman looks REALLY improved from last year, and his 20 lb. weight gain is not affecting speed at all IMO. He chases down runners, looks stronger at the point of attack, and he showed some good pass rushing skills.

Bierman's weight gain has not slowed him down. He's faster now. Imagine a whole year of NFL conditioning for Sidbury and Lewis. :wub: Drools..

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